Notre Dame Pro Day Preview: Irish Players Looking To Impress NFL Teams

Notre Dame has over a dozen players hoping to impress NFL teams at the team's pro day
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Notre Dame will hold its Pro Day tomorrow and over a dozen former Fighting Irish players will look to impress executives, coaches and scouts in advance of the 2021 NFL Draft.

A number of Notre Dame players have a lot on the line at this Pro Day, and every player that participates will get a chance to make one more statement to NFL teams in hopes of convincing them to draft them in late April.

Below is a breakdown of what’s at stake for each Notre Dame player and the areas where they must shine in order to improve their respective draft stocks.

OFFENSE

QB IAN BOOK

What’s At Stake: Book is one of about ten quarterbacks trying to jockey for positions for the middle to late rounds of the draft. The former Irish quarterback is battling with quarterbacks like Davis Mills (Stanford), Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), Sam Ehlinger (Texas), Kyle Trask (Florida), Jamie Newman (Wake Forest), Feleipe Franks (Arkansas) and others for that spot.

There is a clear top five in this draft, but after that there is room for a quarterback to impress a team or two and bolt up boards. That is what Book will try to do at tomorrow’s Pro Day. Book has always been a great practice player, so I expect him to be at his best during the Pro Day. I think he’ll surprise some people with his arm strength and ability to get the ball downfield and to make some of the tougher downfield throws with velocity that we didn’t see much in games.

Areas To Thrive: Book is considered a mobile quarterback that can make plays off script, and to keep that reputation in tact he must test well in the 40-yard dash and agility drills.

On the field, Book needs to show top-notch ball placement and the ability to put the ball down the field. He will get plenty of opportunities to throw the deep ball, far hash throws and deep routes like corners, posts and digs. On those throws he must not only be accurate, but even more important is the velocity and trajectory he gets on throws.

WR JAVON McKINLEY

What’s At Stake: McKinley isn’t getting much love in a deep, deep receiver class. The issue for McKinley is as good as he was when he was actually targeted this season, he wasn’t targeted enough and he really only played for one full season. His injury history doesn’t help matters much either, but McKinley was really good this season, and a strong Pro Day performance from a testing standpoint will force teams to go back and take a deeper dive into his film.

Areas To Thrive: McKinley has great size but he must prove he runs well enough to be drafted. His 17.1 yards per catch average was impressive, and only Will Fuller (2015), Michael Floyd (2008) and Golden Tate (2007) had better yards per catch numbers in the last 15 seasons among players with at least 30 catches.

If McKinley can run in the low 4.5s it might cause some teams to look into him further, but if he can get into the 4.4 range it would force a lot of teams to rethink their evaluation of him. If that is coupled with good leaping and agility numbers he could see his stock go up a great deal.

TE TOMMY TREMBLE

What’s At Stake: Florida’s Kyle Pitts is the top tight end in the 2021 NFL Draft, but after that there is plenty of room for positioning. Tremble is ranked anywhere from third to fifth among tight ends in the 2021 Draft class, but a dominant performance at the Pro Day could help him to make a claim for the second or third position.

Areas To Thrive: For Tremble it’s about three things, run really fast, show explosiveness in tests and catch the ball well. It would not shock me if Tremble gets into the 4.5 range, and if that happens it will grab a lot of attention. If that is followed by a strong catching session and good explosiveness numbers (vertical, broad jump, agilities) he could stake claim to the number two tight end spot in the draft.

TE BROCK WRIGHT

What’s At Stake: Wright is unlikely to get drafted, but this is a relatively weak tight end draft class. A strong Pro Day performance, combined with his high prep ranking (he was a Top 100 recruit) could cause some to do more digging on Wright. He blocked very well as a senior, and a strong Pro Day performance could get him on some teams radar.

Areas To Thrive: For Wright it’s all about testing well. Running clean routes and catching the ball would certainly be a plus, but that’s not going to get teams to take a harder look at him. Running well (getting into the 4.6 range would be a great start) and performing well in the agility drills are what will catch a teams eye. For Wright it’s not only about getting drafted, but also positioning himself to have more suitors when it comes to being an undrafted free agent.

OL LIAM EICHENBERG

What’s At Stake: Eichenberg is considered a borderline first round pick by many draft analysts, and there are knocks about his athleticism and base. I don’t have the same concerns about his athleticism, and a strong Pro Day performance could help solidify his standing as a lock for the first round, which is what his film shows.

Areas To Thrive: Testing well would be good for Eichenberg, who needs to show good enough times in the 40-yard dash (10-yard split) and the cone drills to keep his standing in place. What matters most for Eichenberg, however, is showing well in drills. The former Irish All-American left tackle needs to show good foot speed and change of direction ability in drills. If he can answer the questions about his lateral quickness and agility he could cement himself as a first-round pick.

OL ROBERT HAINSEY

What’s At Stake: Hainsey has an outstanding player for Notre Dame but he is often overlooked. Part of that is due to how talented his teammates are, the other part is he lacks the measurables people obsess over. What Hainsey has, however, is outstanding film. For him, the Pro Day is about answering any questions people have about his measurables and athleticism, which then allows teams to focus solely on his tape and versatility. That is how Hainsey could find himself climbing up draft boards over the next month.

Areas To Thrive: I don’t expect Hainsey to crush it in the 40-yard dash. That’s not really his thing, and with his body type my hope is that he’s able to get around a 5.0 to a 5.1. Where he needs to thrive is in the agility drills and then show athleticism, foot quickness and power in the offensive line specific drills.

OL AARON BANKS

What’s At Stake: Banks has been projected anywhere from the late first round to the fourth round, and that’s what his tape shows at well. When he’s on his game he’s a first round talent, but there are times when he plays more like a middle round player. We also saw that at the Senior Bowl. There were times when Banks was absolutely dominant, but also other instances where poor technique got him beat. A strong Pro Day performance could help Banks solidify his standing as a potential day one pick, but certainly an early day two selection.

Areas To Thrive: Banks needs to measure in below 340 pounds, he needs to put up good agility numbers and show good explosiveness. In position drills Banks needs to show top-notch change of direction and power. For Banks it’s all about looking sharp, being consistent and displaying sound technique. If he does that he’ll affirm his standing near the top of the guard board.

OL TOMMY KRAEMER

What’s At Stake: Kraemer has been an injury-prone, inconsistent blocker for much of his career. What works in his favor is that he is big, strong, intelligent, hard working and a high-character young man. The biggest question mark for Kraemer in this draft process is his medicals. If those check out and he can stay on the board for all teams I’m sure he’ll get drafted, just not sure how high it will be.

Areas To Thrive: Kraemer is the least athletic offensive linemen among the four former Irish blockers, at least that’s what we see on film. If he can test well, especially on the movement drills (agilities, position specific drills) he could make enough noise to possibly land in the late rounds.

DEFENSE

DE ADETOKUNBO OGUNDEJI

What’s At Stake: I honestly have no read on where Ogundeji is going to get selected. I’ve seen analysts rank him as an undrafted free agent and I’ve seen other rank him as a second round draft pick. I have a feeling those who rank him as an undrafted player haven’t watched much film of him, but just how high can he go? Ogundeji produced good numbers this season, he was a stout run defender, showed good pass rushing ability and his length is elite. A strong Pro Day could solidify him as a day two (second and third round) prospect.

Areas To Thrive: For Ogundeji it’s all about the testing numbers. He needs to run a good 40-yard dash time, he needs show have impressive agility numbers and he needs to show explosiveness. He has the size, length, experience and production to attract scouts, now he needs to show he has the athleticism of a high draft pick. If he doesn’t test well you’ll likely see him settle in as a mid to low-round draft pick.

DE DAELIN HAYES

What’s At Stake: Hayes has had a strong offseason. Like Ogundeji, he was very good at the Senior Bowl and he continues to impress people with his character and personality. Hayes has a ton of experience, but my first concern is how teams will view his medicals (injury history). If that checks out well his draft positioning will then be determined by what level of athleticism teams believe he has. That is why the Pro Day is so important for Hayes. He needs to show teams he is a top-notch athlete, that is his key to being a day two pick.

Areas To Thrive: Like Ogundeji, for Hayes the Pro Day is all about the testing numbers. Yes, showing the ability to drop in coverage will impress teams, especially for a guy who weighs over 260 pounds, but if that dropping ability isn’t supported by a good 40-yard dash and impressive agility numbers it won’t really have much of an impact. If Hayes impresses in drills - which I expect him to do - and he adds strong testing numbers to that resume you’ll see him become a fast riser up draft boards over the next month.

LB JEREMIAH OWUSU-KORAMOAH

What’s At Stake: Owusu-Koramoah is considered a late first round, early second round prospect. His film is outstanding and he will impress people with his high character and strong foundation. What he must now do is finish off his resume with elite testing numbers. If he does that he’ll likely lock himself into the first round.

Areas To Thrive: I expect Owusu-Koramoah to put up outstanding agility and explosiveness numbers. My only question/concern is the 40-yard dash time, which still matters to a lot of people. If he doesn’t run in the high 4.4 or low 4.5 range that might hurt his standing with some and could possibly drop him out of the first round. It shouldn’t, but that’s the scouting world we live in.

CB NICK McCLOUD

What’s At Stake: McCloud is a veteran player with a great deal of experience. He was a top player for the Irish secondary in 2020, but there are legitimate questions about his athleticism relative to the NFL. For McCloud, the character is there, the work ethic is there, the tape is there, now he needs to back it with strong testing numbers.

Areas To Thrive: McCloud is a defensive back, so the 40-yard dash time will be very, very important. McCloud needs to get into the low 4.5 range and he must put up impressive numbers in the agility drills. If he wants to get picked up in the late rounds he’ll need a huge day.

ANALYSIS

All the Notre Dame players have something to prove in tomorrow’s Pro Day, but some have more at stake than others. The two defensive ends (Hayes, Ogundeji) certainly could make themselves a lot of money with a strong Pro Day, but Tremble and McKinley have arguably the most to gain from a great running performance. 

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